Benjamin Norcross

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Benjamin Norcross, Character Animator for games.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Ski bum/lift operator, Medic/Corpsman in the U.S. Military, Veterinarian Assistant

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Free Realms: for the kid demographic but the characters were fun and I was never told to tone it down a bit.  I could literally do what ever came to mind and for animation, nothing is better than having total creative freedom.  I made a duck-billed dinosaur do yoga!

How did you become interested in animation?
I love art and I was very seriously considering graphic design for marketing and I found a school that looked good.  When I got out of the Military the school had been bought out by the Art Institute.  Not only did they

have graphic design but they also had animation…I wasn’t sure it was for me but I did it anyway.  Turns out, it was for me!

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I had done some internships/light contract work for Sony Computer Entertainment America and I had a friend not far away at Sony Online Entertainment.  I would visit him for lunch and the producer walked up and checked out my demo reel.  Not five minutes later I was doing an interview with the Art Director!  Turns out I didn’t get hired on for that project but someone downstairs had just left and they needed a replacement.  I got that job instead.  It’s all timing.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Working hours are 10 to 7, I’m usually a little early.  I check email and work until we have a short meeting about what we’re doing that day and how far along we are, what we want to do next, etc.  Then I work until lunch.  Shortly after lunch we get the animators together on the team and review our work to identify things we didn’t see after looking at it for hours.  And then Trickle out around 6:45 or so provided the work has been done that day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Making games is great but doing animation is always fresh and new.  The production turnover is high so you do a lot, there was a point when I would do two animations a day!  I just really enjoy the process of developing an animation from start to finish.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Sometimes, when the scheduling conflicts with the ship date of the game the dev team has to stay late and “crunch.”  I’ve been one project out of six where we didn’t crunch at all!  The inevitable 10, 14 or 18 hour days.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The hardest thing about it the business of animation is getting your first real job doing it!  It’s an extremely tight industry.  I didn’t start out doing animation, I did environment art for a project, then character art and then I did animation.  Sometimes I’d do all three!  But getting an animation job requires talent, networking and most importantly timing. All about timing.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Autodesk’s Maya 3D program
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve never met say, one of the old nine men, but I do know great animators.  I don’t know I’ve ever done any animation that people would say “WOW!  Thats the best animation I’ve ever seen!”  Perhaps my mother.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My whole life has been that!  But the toughest would be in the military, Sept. 11th was particularly tough, not just that day but the weeks and months after called for professionalism under extreme circumstances that was enough to have made me gone mad.  We were all exhausted.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I paint dog portraits!  I love my dogs and enjoy just time painting them.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
I don’t have any talents that are unusual.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be patient!  Whatever job you have right now, know it’s only a stepping stone to something better.  Be diligent in working on your animation outside of your job, learn as much as you can.  Mostly understand that it’s not just who you know, it’s who you know with the skills you have with the opening that just came up.  But of all of the three timing is the most important.  No one gets hired without a position available.  GO GET ‘EM!

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